- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

BOSTON — It’s a scene the Maryland women’s basketball team can’t afford to see tonight: North Carolina sophomore Erlana Larkins scoring on put-backs and transition layups while pulling down every key rebound.

If Larkins comes close to repeating her 26-point, 12-rebound performance that helped North Carolina beat Maryland in the ACC title game, the Terps’ season could be over.

“We have to definitely reduce her chances,” Maryland sophomore Laura Harper said yesterday at TD Banknorth Garden. “We have to increase our rebounding efforts and we have to run back on defense.”

Harper is likely to get the first shot at guarding Larkins, who has 43 points and 21 rebounds in two games against Maryland this season.

Larkins hit her first three shots against Maryland on March 5 and finished by making nine of her 14 field goal attempts and eight of 10 free throws.

“I was expecting the double team and it surprised me that they didn’t,” she said. “The one-on-one matchup created openings for me to make some moves and get to the basket.

“Hopefully we can try to repeat that but Maryland might try to mix up their defenses against me.”

Said Harper: “We have to work as hard as she does. We have to control her second-chance points and push her off the block and box out.”

Larkins agrees that rebounding will be key for both teams.

“They outrebounded us [49-48 on Feb. 9] and Coach [Sylvia] Hatchell always talks about hitting the boards,” she said. “To play Carolina basketball, which is fastbreak, we have to rebound so we can get the ball and run.”

Back to health

Seven of Maryland’s 10 players were hit with a flu-like virus since last week. Marissa Coleman missed practice Friday and reserve Aurelie Noirez did not accompany the team here Thursday because of illness but arrived Friday.

Coach Brenda Frese said she had overcome her bout with illness.

“After the Final Four, I’m getting ready to write my book, ‘The Albuquerque Diet.’ Go on that and you’ll lose a quick five pounds,” she said.

Around the Final Four

The Terps aren’t feeling the pressure yet. The players spent time before practice playing pictionary. “We’ve got some characters on this team,” guard Kristi Toliver said. …

Frese started her press conference by saying, “We obviously want to welcome Pokey Chatman and LSU to the ACC tournament, part II. We would love to have them come join our league.”

Three teams from the same conference is a women’s Final Four first. …

LSU is making its third consecutive Final Four appearance. The Tigers lost to Tennessee in 2004 and Baylor last year. Connecticut holds the record with five straight berths (2000-04). …

There are three No.1 seeds in the Final Four. At least one top seed has advanced to each of the 24 previous Final Fours. This is the sixth time three No.1s have reached the semifinals. …

When Duke coach Gail Goestenkors was being asked a question about the Blue Devils’ lacrosse team scandal, press conference moderator Debbie Byrne cut off the reporter and said, “We’re not talking about that here.”

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